On Dec. 7, members of College Council (CC) voted to approve three separate bylaw changes to the CC constitution. These bylaws focused on the use of the Treasurer’s Discretionary Fund, the interaction of the treasurer and the Student Life advisor to CC and the reporting of financial information related to the Student Activities Tax (SAT) and rollover funds. The changes, designed to increase CC’s financial transparency, came in response to false allegations that CC treasurer Jack Noelke ’13 had hidden roughly $120,000 from members of CC and the student body (“CC clarifies issues surrounding funding transparency, petition for vote of no confidence in CC sees little support,” Dec. 15).
A campus-wide e-mail from Noelke and CC co-presidents Francesca Barrett ’12 and Nick Fogel ’12, sent on Dec. 8, revealed that the funds in question, termed “cumulative rollover,” were initially held in the Treasurer’s Discretionary Fund before being transferred to “a variety of funds.” CC leadership defined “cumulative rollover” as the remaining funds from both CC itself and CC subgroup accounts at the end of each year. The e-mail stated that a number of CC funds, including the Projects Fund, the Benefits Fund and the Capital Investment Fund, drew from this rollover money. The e-mail reported cumulative rollover for this fiscal year at $128,000.
Barrett and Fogel maintain that CC’s financial policies are legitimate and that every dollar transacted was accountable to the Controller’s Office. “I think people are looking for a scandal, to compare this to Washington,” Fogel said. “But this is student government … there are no evil, backroom schemes going on.” The Controller’s Office has also confirmed claims by CC leadership that all funds were handled properly.
The first bylaw change, which carried unanimously, caps the Treasurer’s Discretionary Fund at $5000 following the first CC meeting of each academic year. “The $5000 will be sufficient to handle unforeseen problems in most future years without taking up extra time on CC’s agenda,” Noelke said. “There may be a situation in the future where an emergency calls for more than $5000, but in that situation, the treasurer can return to CC to ask for approval of a transfer from another fund into Treasurer’s Discretionary.”
The second change codified the relationship between the CC treasurer and an as-yet-unnamed advisor from the Office of Student Life. Barrett speculated that Ben Lamb, interim assistant director for student involvement, would serve as this advisor. The treasurer and advisor will meet at least three times during the year, including a meeting to discuss the funding rollover process. Such an advisor to CC had existed in previous years but the role was not clearly defined when the Office of Campus Life was reorganized to form Student Life. “The advisor in Student Life will now be in contact with the treasurer in order to ensure that we are building an institutional memory about funding that future treasurers can turn to,” Noelke said. This second motion carried unanimously.
The final bylaw change requires the treasurer to disclose the value of SAT and rollover funds on the CC website and publish the information as both a dollar amount and as a percentage of the respective funds. Funding information will be password-protected online and accessible only to students. As with the previous two bylaws, the disclosure process carried unanimously.
According to Controller Susan Hogan, administrators were not consulted regarding the content of the bylaw changes and the Controller’s Office has no intention of changing its oversight policies relating to CC spending. “We will continue to verify that expenses are supported by proper documentation and are authorized,” Hogan said.
“In many respects the new bylaws were seeking to consolidate and codify thinking that had been happening over the course of a number of years, as CC leaders had been thinking about how best to manage … and communicate their funding processes,” Dean Bolton said.
While Barrett and Fogel maintain that CC’s financial policies were legitimate prior to the bylaw changes, they recognized the need for greater financial transparency. “We should have been more transparent and that’s something we’ve been working on and will continue to work on,” Fogel said. However, the co-presidents indicated that the latest bylaw changes were meant to be a comprehensive reform and that further discussion of financial transparency will not feature prominently on the CC docket.